Glenda Ritz, Indiana’s superintendent of schools, is calling on legislators in her state to fund a universal pre-k program. It’s a big step given that some states are only focusing on pre-k for low-income children, but Ritz has a plan.
An Associated Press story features this quote:
“‘The funds are there if the political will exists,’ said Ritz, who is the only Democrat elected to statewide office. ‘With less than 1 percent of the state’s annual budget, we can ensure that most of our children are kindergarten ready.'”
The article adds, “Ritz estimates her plan would cost about $150 million a year and could be paid for with federal funds, reprioritizing some state spending and rededicating money budgeted for other types of child-welfare programs that goes unspent.”
Ritz’s ally is Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Gregg who said, “Every business leader I have spoken to over the last few years has told me how important this investment is to not only our state but to our economy… We can work with our public schools and other high-quality providers to ramp up this program quickly and catch up with the rest of the nation. And, we can go after the federal dollars that Mike Pence turned down to help us grow even faster,” according to the website Inside Indiana Business with Gerry Dick.
There are political bumps in the road ahead.
“Indiana is one of just a handful of states that does not offer a significant pre-kindergarten program, according to the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University. Nonetheless, the adoption of a statewide program has proven politically difficult with tea party groups, religious conservatives and a network of home schoolers opposed to the acceptance of millions in federal money that could help pay for it,” the AP story says.
After initially having passed on federal funding two years ago, Indiana’s Republican Governor Mike Pence expressed “interest in federal aid for growing the state’s $10 million pilot preschool program,” according to the Indianapolis Star Tribune.
If they can craft a compromise on pre-k expansion, Indiana’s policymakers could ensure that children get the kind of high-quality early education that makes everyone in the Hoosier State proud.